Sept. 1, 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes, 11 seconds

The University of West Georgia recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Newnan campus to celebrate a new sculpture and mural designed by art students Trinity Dendy and Ariana Culver. The projects – commissioned by UWG’s School of the Arts (SOTA) with generous support from the Hollis Trust – are prime examples of the university’s strategic plan in progress.

Dr. Brendan Kelly
Dr. Brendan Kelly

“To remain relevant to our students and communities – and competitive in the higher education marketplace – we must continuously elevate our spaces,” UWG President Dr. Brendan Kelly said. “This includes making contributions to Newnan’s art and culture landscape with projects like this sculpture and mural, which are the result of students engaging in a few weeks of intensive experiential learning and maintaining a relationship with community partners, namely the Hollis Trust.”

The Hollis Trust is the legacy of Edgar Hollis Jr., a Newnan native who had a distinguished career in Washington D.C. When he passed away in 2006, a portion of his estate went to a charitable trust dedicated to the Newnan area. 

“We’re very fortunate to have a great working relationship with the Hollis Trust,” said Dr. Chad Davidson, SOTA director. “They have always recognized the powerful, transformational essence of art.”

Community and relationships remained resounding themes throughout the process, from the initial phase of competition through creation and, finally, completion. Davidson explained how projects like these strengthen the relationships between students and faculty and the importance of those connections.

“We sought distinguished art professors to coordinate and manage these prizes,” he said. “They offered students close mentoring toward a shared goal of securing these professional commissions. Such opportunities are rare for anyone, let alone undergraduates. It’s an amazing apprenticeship-based experience, all made possible by the generosity and intelligence of Mr. Hollis.”

Mural: Ariana Culver

The mural competition was coordinated and judged by Erin Dixon and Eilis Crean, art faculty who narrowed the student proposals down to three finalists before ultimately selecting Ariana Culver.

“This was my first mural – the largest painting I’d ever done up to this point was 20x60,” Culver said. “When I found out my painting was going to be on a large scale, I was very nervous, but also grateful and excited because I knew this would be a new experience and step in my artistic career.”

Ariana Culver

When her design won – an abstract mixture of architectural design, optical illusion and patterning – Dixon and Crean enlisted runner-up Piper Heaton to assist, much to Culver’s joy.

“I already knew I wanted Piper’s help because she's an amazing artist,” Culver shared. “Even in the whole process, we never bumped heads. When it came to doing different types of designs, we would communicate and automatically know what we were going to do.” 

Culver said she received an enormous amount of support from the UWG community.

“My professors would give me tips, like ‘just see this as one of your regular paintings, only larger,’” she shared. “Even as the mural was coming along, we would go out to eat and just talk about different artists and how creating this mural can lead to more opportunities.”

Now a muralist, Culver said she believes this experience has prepared her for an artistic career.

“I've had a few companies reach out to ask questions on my pricing, so that’s exciting,” she concluded. “I would like to collaborate with other artistic friends, and I hope to have a design accepted to Living Walls, an Atlanta public art nonprofit that creates murals. Even if it's not an opportunity for me, it could be an opportunity to help someone else start their career. This whole project has been one worth learning.”

Sculpture: Trinity Dendy

The sculpture competition was similar, with lecturer Ryan Lamfers acting as coach and James Davis as well as Department of Art, History and Philosophy Chair Kevin Shunn voting on the winner. Also included was a vote by the advanced sculpture class, which allowed the students a chance to affect the outcome. The winning design, a nearly 10’ bronze sculpture, went to art education major Trinity Dendy.

Trinity Dendy

“I had never created work on a computer that became a 3D project, so when I first created the piece, I was frustrated,” Dendy described. “I never thought I would win the competition because of that, but Ryan was constantly giving me feedback and encouraging me to continue.”

After her design was chosen, Dendy incorporated her minimalist style with historical industrial pieces donated by R.D. Cole, a Newnan-based manufacturing company. The wood was used over and over again to create new molds and multiple designs of one product.

Dendy, who plans to teach art, said the mentorship – and experience overall – has helped prepare her and increased her excitement for a career as a teacher-artist.

“Ryan and James taught me how to safely use so many different types of equipment and all these new ways of doing things that I'm not familiar with,” she concluded. “Now I know and I can use them in the future to teach others. It is very encouraging in the ways they've helped me.”


photography and videography by Miranda Daniel